Bomb technicians called to detonate 4th pipe bomb

By Kathy Helms-Hughes
STAR STAFF
khughes@starhq.com

   Sessie Carden needs a new mailbox. Hers was "blown apart" Tuesday by members of Johnson City Police Department's bomb squad after Carden called 911 to report what appeared to be an explosive device inside the box.
   Carden, 408 Division St., said she didn't check the mail over the weekend. When she finally did go to the box, the mail hadn't run but the pipe bomb was there, she said.
   "I felt of it and kind of just lifted it. It was a real big heavy piece of iron, round-looking, but it didn't look like nothing that would be a bomb. I didn't know what it was, but it had two fuses to it."
   Carden said she took her vehicle to have it worked on Tuesday morning and told the mechanic who drove her home about the strange device.
   "He said, 'I'm going to look at it and see what it is.' And when he saw it, he said, 'I believe it's a pipe bomb. You need to go in the house and call the law right now,' " Carden said.
   Capt. Mike Peters and Detective Greg Workman of Elizabethton Police Department's Criminal Investigation Division responded to the scene along with Elizabethton Fire Department personnel, agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Johnson City Police Bureau.
   Carden said one of the responders told her that "if it went off with somebody close to it, it would have blowed them all to pieces."
   Capt. Peters and Detective Workman called a 2 p.m. press conference regarding the rash of pipe bombs.
   "Currently, the Elizabethton Police Department along with ATF are investigating four incidences involving explosive devices within Elizabethton's corporate limits," Capt. Peters said. "Two of the devices have detonated: the first one being on April 24 at 1604 Burgie St., and the second being on April 27 at the intersection of Valentine and Bonnie Kate Boulevard."
   Peters said two devices were rendered inoperable by Johnson City bomb technicians: one found Sunday in front of 413 Monument Place and the one found Tuesday at Division Street.
   "Everything right now has been concentrated in the west end section of town, from Burgie Street to Monument. It's about a mile stretch," Peters said. "All of these devices are similar in nature."
   Police have collected evidence from each scene and forwarded it for laboratory analyses.
   "Right now, we've had two in mailboxes, one under a vehicle and one that seems to have been thrown randomly into a yard or lot," Capt. Peters said. "We would like to encourage the public [that] if they have any suspicious activity in their neighborhood to please contact police and if they find any suspicious devices to contact 911 immediately. If they wish to provide information and remain anonymous, they can call our tips hotline at 542-7574."
   Due to the nature of the investigation police currently are unable to release a lot of information about construction of the devices. "Thus far, we're looking for any items that appear to be pipe with plugs on both ends," Detective Workman said.
   The pipe bombs appear to have been randomly placed, and according to Workman, "We don't know exactly when they are set to go off. All of the calls have been coming in after 10 p.m., other than today's. We believe this device was placed there possibly Saturday night."
   Damage to the mailbox at Valentine Drive and Bonnie Kate Boulevard was massive, throwing pieces of metal and debris everywhere, Capt. Peters said.
   "Luckily no one's been hurt so far. Had someone been driving by or been near the device when it exploded, the possibility of injury was very high because the pipe itself seems to shred and create shrapnel. The mailbox could become shrapnel and could also be dangerous," he said.
   Police say they are investigating a couple of promising leads, but could not comment further.